The biggest change many Olympic fans will see in Sydney will be bodysuits worn by swimmers. Almost everyone - with the exception of swimming's international governing body - is certain they increase speed dramatically, perhaps as much as 3 percent.
US men's swimming coach, Mark Schubert, says, "There's no doubt in my mind they're faster." The high-tech fabric performs better against the water than human skin. An avalanche of world records will be posted in Sydney, but many fret they will be triumphs of technology rather than training and technique. They replace the skimpier-the-better suits of recent Olympics. Ian Thorpe seems poised to be the next world swimming superstar. But the 17-year-old Australian is so harassed at home that he is training at the USOC facilities in Colorado Springs.
No. 1 by far, in Olympic medals won between 1896 (start of the modern games) and 1996, is the United States, with 2,019, including 832 gold. A distant second is the old USSR with 1,010, 395 gold. Following are Great Britain (169 gold), France, Sweden, Italy, the old East Germany, and Hungary. At the other end of the list, with just one bronze medal each, are 11 countries, including Scotland, Wales, Iraq, and Bermuda.
Proving no item is too small to report when it comes to anything that touches the Olympics:
*No French fries will be served at the Sydney venues because they take too long to serve. Instead, there will be noodles, baguettes, and kebabs.
*There is consternation that fake Aboriginal art is being produced in Indonesia and elsewhere for sale in Australia. Beware, tourists, of phony boomerangs.
International Olympic Committee executive Jacques Rogge says Sydney is beautifully prepared to be host. In fact, it's Rogge's opinion that only one city has ever done better: Lillehammer, Norway, for the 1994 Winter Olympics. Those Olympics are widely considered the textbook example of excellence. Serious early concerns that Sydney wouldn't have enough hotel rooms are no longer valid, says Rogge.
And to help other cities that will go down Sydney's path in the future, the IOC has paid the local organizing committee $3.5 million to prepare a detailed report of 100 pre-Games endeavors, including triumphs but more importantly, failures.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society